Traveling can be one of the most amazing privileges a person can experience. But it comes with its own challenges, too. You will be meeting new people, trying new things, immersing yourself in new cultures. Perhaps you have already decided to keep an open mind while you’re off on your adventures, but you may find your day-to-day habits catching you up and making things more difficult than they need to be. You can ease your way by preparing to leave some of these ingrained habits behind along with the instructions for your house-sitter.
1. Daily Coffee
Let’s get this over with; I can practically hear the screams of horror as I type. “Go without coffee?” “On purpose??” “She’s mad!”
I know. Believe me, I know. But that’s the point. When is the last time you skipped coffee? (Unless you are not a coffee drinker, in which case feel free to miss this section. Although it could also apply to tea.)
For those of us that drink coffee regularly, every day, possibly at the same time every day, skipping a cup can be disastrous. Chances are, we’ll be struck with a headache, or at the very least fatigue. Now, most of the world drinks coffee, of course, and finding it probably won’t be difficult. Probably.
… But if it is? If you get stuck somewhere without coffee for a day, or half a day? Who wants to be distracted from the view by a caffeine headache? I’m not saying give up coffee, tea, or your other caffeinated beverages of choice. I am suggesting that you cut back for a week or so before you leave. At the very least, mix up your schedule a little so that your body won’t go into panic mode if it doesn’t get its expected boost at exactly the right moment.
2. Alcohol for Socializing
Social lubrication! Dutch courage! … Other odd descriptive phrases! If you do drink alcohol, going out and having a few drinks can be a great way to meet new people. Many (not all) cultures have some kind of drinking that takes place around socializing. Bars, pubs, cocktail hours, and so on. And there are equivalents to be found at many vacation spots. There are often “watering holes” (another interesting description) listed in local guidebooks and travel blogs.
There can be a few issues in this area, however. The first is a matter of culture. Many holiday destinations cater for their “Western” guests by providing Western-style bars. These countries and their cultures do not necessarily condone drinking, however. If you are interested in actually getting to know the place you are staying, make sure that you are not disrespecting it.
Otherwise – as nice as it can be to meet people over drinks, you can do that at home! Try to think outside of the box for activities you can do with new friends, instead of falling back to the familiar. Perhaps go to see a museum, or a live music event. You could take a class in cooking or language and meet people that way, or sign up for a walking tour. You might even end up developing brand new habits to take home with you!
3. Shopping as Recreation
This may sound absurd, but you can get kind of bored on holiday. After you’ve seen all the sights you want to, your days open up a little, and you want to find something new to do. This is understandable – it is your designated fun time, after all. And this is when, from habit, we often start shopping.
Shopping can be fun, I won’t deny it. And travel shopping can be such an experience, with interesting things to look at, markets to visit, and gifts to plan for friends and family. But it cannot be approached in the same way as we might at home. It can be distracting, making you focus on your purchases over the experience itself. And on a practical level, you are limited by your bag space. Try to shop for things you actually want – and keep an eye on how much space you have left!
4. Standing in Line
Before I am accused of promoting anarchy, I am not suggesting that you do not stand in line. When there is a line for the thing you want, you stand in it. Obviously. Just like the other habits mentioned here, this is not a bad thing to do – but if you rely on it, you may run into some issues.
What if there isn’t a line? There could be a loose
of a line, with no discernible starting point. There could be a loose crowd-towards-the-counter system. It could be a free-for-all. Keep your eyes open, and see what everyone else is doing; you cannot operate on automatic when you are in a new country.
Try not to be offended if you feel someone has cut you off – if you see everyone doing it, that probably means that you should do it too. Consider it an experience in cultural immersion.
5. Relying on Timetables
This does not go for every country, of course. Some may well have better schedule management than your own. Many others, however, require you to treat time as something to be appreciated loosely. “The bus will be here soon” could mean in the next five minutes, or an hour, or within the next day and a half. You can do some research into the place you will be visiting to learn what you should expect.
Regardless, try not to schedule anything down to the minute – even if you are in a country famed for its timekeeping. You never know when you are going to be detoured, or delayed, or caught in unexpected commuter traffic. Staying loose and adaptable is your best bet.
6. Checking Your Phone
What could be more of a routine habit than checking your phone? Updates, notifications, and messages call our attention nearly constantly. Which is fine, at home. But when looking down at your phone means you might be missing something amazing? Give it a miss.
You will likely be using your phone often during your trip – apps, e-tickets, and other details will likely be on there. And you’ll want to keep in touch with your loved ones, or those you have met on your trip. But checking your phone every minute or so is such a waste. Try to schedule checking-in moments, say every half an hour, provided there is nothing urgent happening. Switch your notifications to silent. Give your attention to what’s around you. You won’t regret it.